Public Technology reports that HMRC has begun its return to the office, although staff across the
department will continue to work remotely for four days a week, on
In an all-staff memo sent last week, permanent secretary Jim Harra
said more than 16,000 staff who had been working from home during the
coronavirus pandemic had returned to offices by the end of September.
They included 4,300 staff who had come into the office for the first
time in the week leading up to the memo.
He said that by the end of last week, he expected “all colleagues in
England and Scotland who have been temporarily working from home during
the pandemic, will have agreed a plan with their line manager to return
to the workplace for an average of one day a week, using the discussion
Those returning join around 4,000 HMRC staff who have been working
from offices during the pandemic. Those civil servants are considered
key workers and could not do their jobs remotely.
Staff in Wales and Northern Ireland should continue to work from home, he said.
“I trust that in the coming weeks many of you will have the chance to
re-connect face to face with your colleagues and enjoy a taste of
office life again,” he said.
Harra said the expected one-day-a-week return “won’t be the same for everyone”.
“Depending on your personal circumstances, you may need more support
in making arrangements, so it’s really important that you talk to your
manager about what is right for you,” he said. He said National
Inclusion Week, which fell on the same week as his message, was a “real
reminder to us all to continue to be respectful, kind and inclusive
towards each other as more of us return to our offices”.
The perm sec said he expected there will be “teething problems” as the number of staff working from HMRC’s buildings increases.
“Please help your estates colleagues and location leads, who are
doing an excellent job of coordinating all this for us, by reporting any
issues that you see, and being patient as we move to our new
arrangements,” he said.
The returns process and the toolkit Harra mentioned has been agreed with unions.
The PCS union has told its members they should only return if HMRC
meets its agreed criteria to have a plan in place with their line
manager, and if it is suitable for their individual circumstances.
“PCS's advice is clear: the discussions between jobholders and
managers must happen, so that any concerns about returning can be
identified. Where it is not yet possible to establish a set date when
you will start working in the office, you can continue to work from
home; and you should agree with your manager when during the coming
weeks, the situation will be reviewed,” the union said.
It added that union reps have “reiterated to the department that any
attempt to force members back to the office would be unacceptable”.
“For its part, HMRC has given a commitment to working with staff, to
take reasonable steps to address their concerns and to support them to
return. We’ve agreed with HMRC that any concerns arising from the agreed
process and procedures will be escalated and resolved,” it added.
Harra’s email came the same week the coronavirus furlough,
self-employment support scheme and sick pay rebate schemes came to an
“I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone for enabling
the department to deliver these schemes so brilliantly, whether you have
worked directly on the schemes or held the fort on our usual work,”
He said civil servants’ “hard work and commitment” had helped to
protect 11.6 million jobs and directly supported 2.9 million
self-employed people across the UK.
“I am deeply proud of your dedication and the huge scale of what we
have been able to deliver together for individuals and businesses – so,
thank you,” he added.
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